Going to the dogs

23 Feb

GORDON the chief photographer is having a panic attack at the office photocopier. He’s jabbing buttons and banging drawers in and out.

“Oh nooooooo . . .” he moans. Then he looks around for assistance. It’s turned midnight and there’s only me in the vicinity – and Big Bernard over on the newsdesk.

“I’m trying to print out my wedding speech but this bloody error message keeps coming up. Jesus, I’ve sent it from my computer but it just won’t print. It’s stuck in cyber-bleeding-space. Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus. Fuck fuck fuck fuck.”

He clatters the drawers again then turns the machine off and on.

“Now there’s a message saying the machine is warming up – but the fuckin’ thing is never switched off. Fer fuck’s sake, is this a stress fest or what? How the fuck am I supposed to get my speech?”

“When’s the wedding?” I ask.

Gordon clatters the drawers again. “Now there’s a message to say the toner is low. It doesn’t say the toner is OUT. It says the toner is LOW. That means there’s still toner in the machine. Why does it need to tell me this? For fuck’s sake. Am I going to have a heart attack, or what? Tomorrow morning at ten.”

“That’s early.”

“My eldest daughter. Marrying a Scottish chemist from Haddington. Jesus, here’s that fucking error message again. Oh, Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus . . .”

I help him press all the buttons, crash all the drawers in and out again, then switch the machine off and on several times. Finally, there’s a whirring noise and three sheets of paper sail into the tray. Gordon scoops them up, folds them quickly, and thrusts them in his jacket pocket.

“Thanks Pork Chop,” he says, with overwhelming relief. “Now I’ve got to get to a bloody remote hotel near Cockburnspath before I get to bed. And all I know about Cockburnspath is that it’s a long way north. Jesus Christ. If you’ve got a daughter, don’t ever let her get married.”

Gordon hurtles through the door and into the night. The photocopier whirrs again. Three more sheets sail into the tray. Big Bernard strolls over and picks them up.

“What’s this? ‘There comes a time in every father’s life when he has to make the ultimate sacrifice and give away his baby Tinkerbell . . .’ Sounds like a wedding speech to me. Where the fuck are the Sunderland greyhound racing results I’ve just sent to the printer?”

Thirteen hours later, in the function room of a remote hotel near Cockburnspath, Gordon climbs to his feet with his buttonhole bobbing and his coattails hanging as proudly as Nelson’s. Two-hundred guests wait expectantly as he removes his papers from his breast pocket and pops his reading glasses on his nose.

His proud smile does not waver. His eyes do not lose their twinkle. But slowly – ever so slowly – the colour drains from his cheeks. The guests wait in silence.

“This is going to sound a bit daft,” he says finally. “But I wish I’d had a hundred quid on Bouncing Molly.”

[NOTE: Okay. In the real world, events didn’t quite end like this. But they nearly did.]

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